Floods in Kenyan nature reserve force evacuation of tourists

Catastrophic floods that have killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands more in East Africa have now submerged parts of the Masai Mara National Reserve, one of Africa’s largest national wildlife reserves.

On Wednesday, the Terek River burst its banks and flooded parts of the nature reserve, inundating many tourist camps. Kenya Red Cross spokesperson Munir Ahmed said more than 90 people had been evacuated, some by helicopter. Others fled through the water.

“The situation in Masai Mara is very bad,” said Daniel Ikayo, owner of a safari company that operates there. “There’s water everywhere.”

Flooding in protected areas has caused significant damage to Kenya’s key economic resources, including livestock, crops and infrastructure.

“We are watching a disaster unfold,” said Chief Brian Adkins. trust It will help protect Kijabe Forest, which was also destroyed by floods.

Mohamed Hersi, director of a safari company and former president of the Kenya Tourism Federation, said only parts of the Masai Mara were affected. But the country’s tourism minister, Alfred Mutua, warned on Wednesday that all hotels and camps near rivers or in national parks and reserves should be prepared to evacuate in case the river floods. did.

Kenya’s long rainy season, which runs from April to June, is not peak tourism season, but those visiting the country now are finding their plans thrown into disarray. “People don’t want to come here to drive around the lake,” Adkins said.

The Terek River isGreat moveMore than a million wildebeest and zebra cross the route from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara between July and October, an event that attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world.

At least 45 people were killed, homes washed away and roads damaged by flash floods that deluged swathes of Kenya’s southern Rift Valley on Monday. A total of 179 people have died in Kenya since the floods began, and many more across East Africa. The floods were particularly devastating in neighboring Tanzania.

With rain expected to continue, Kenya’s president’s office on Wednesday issued an evacuation order for people living in risky areas such as rivers, dams and reservoirs to evacuate within 48 hours. More than 30,000 people have already been evacuated.

Ahmed of the Red Cross said a total of 45 roads and more than 370 water sources were destroyed, and more than 600 businesses and 35,000 acres of crops were affected. Local residents say people who made a living from small businesses such as avocado farms and tractor businesses have lost their livelihoods.

It is unclear how this year’s floods will ultimately affect the economy, but recent reports suggest that Report by the African Climate FoundationBetween 2010 and 2020, 3 to 5 percent of gross domestic product was lost due to climate change-related events such as floods and droughts.

The frequency and intensity of such events is likely to continue to increase, the report said.

Forecasters from the Kenya Meteorological Department warned on Wednesday that “rainfall will increase rapidly in several parts of the country from Thursday into the weekend”.

judson jones I contributed a report from New York.

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